Thursday, December 19, 2013

Another Taste of Moonshine

Smooth and round a day ago, the lemon gelato moon has begun to melt, flattening from the top downward, and its light is puddling in the mist surrounding its base.

Monday, December 16, 2013

December Moon

This sky is the color "midnight blue" from a box of sixty-four Crayola crayons with sharpener, and it's as featureless as the surface of that wax stylus when it was brand-new, shiny-smooth, as yet unmarked by fingernails or other crayons, still sharp and unbroken in its pristine wrapper with the neatly lettered, mysterious name. I wasn't allowed to stay up until midnight, of course, but this crayon, with its honest childhood smell, promised to show me what it would look like if I could see the sky at that late hour.

It isn't midnight now; it's barely dark, and the moon is just beginning its climb from the horizon into that smooth, flat, midnight blue sky. The moon is pale buttercream yellow tonight, but it isn't soft-edged like a frosted cupcake. Instead it is as sharply round as the circles an art teacher cuts from construction paper, circles I try in vain to copy with compass and tracing patterns and round-tipped scissors. The moon's edges are so sharp, in fact, that the sky looks as if some gigantic teacher has cut one of her perfect circles from it, and I can see through the dark into a world of light beyond, a world where  beautiful and warm and welcoming people are smiling and waiting to meet me, shining a light to show me the way in.

I think if I can get there, they won't even mind that my circles are a little pointy.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nelson Mandela Has Died

It's a dark and dangerous jungle out there, full of tangled vines hanging heavy with hidden intentions as well as gaudy displays of obvious positions. Tooth and claw are ever ready to slash and gash the unwary as well as the aware.

A man died in that jungle. Like every man, he had done good things in his life. Like every man, he had made mistakes. Unlike most, many of his deeds were publicly known. Still, he was a man, and he died. He lived, he died, a man.

"Ah, we are so lost."

"Oh, he was so good. We miss him."

"No, he was a devil. Good riddance."

"He showed us God."

"Thank God he's gone."

Seeking words, when someone dies, we cry with loud voice, "I . . . "

But I am not the one who lived the life, who suffered the blows, who struggled for sanity, who accepted the role, who fought the fight, who called the judgments, who chose the way. I am an observer, many times removed, and my vision is affected by every filter placed between him and me, every voice of interpretation or propaganda.

Who am I to say he was good or bad? Who am I to explain his place in history? Who am I to predict the future impact of his life?

And who are they, the hissing, growling beasts lurking in the shadows of greatness, hiding inaction with loud protestation or proclamation? Who are they who shine their tiny torches from under their bushels to enlighten the world about this man's light?

And what does it matter who we are?

A man lived. A man died. He was a man.

We all live and die. Are we being all we can be, shining all the light we can shine, making all the difference we can make? Why instead do we jump from hiding or pause in the clearing to see if someone else took a speck from his eye? What of our own eyes? And whether our eyes are clear or clouded, does it make them clearer to say we saw what he saw, or to say he could not see?

I tire. I see Jesus looking over the Holy City full of unholy busy-ness and nearly empty of eyes to see. Blind beggars all of us, striving for more, when we have been given all. I am not called to be Mandela, nor am I justified to judge him.

He was a man. He lived. He died.

How will I?

Thank God that in the midst of the posturing and pontificating, the canonizing and vilifying, at last I found a place of peace. One quiet voice spoke, and I heard it, and the jungle grew still, the storm calm.

"Go well, Madiba."

Thank God.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Beautiful Day







"What a pretty day!" I comment to my husband, every time we're together in the car. It's a new thing, a new feeling, a new appreciation of the beauty of each day.

Sunshine? "What a pretty day!"

Fog? "What a pretty day!"

Autumn colors? "What a pretty day!"

Cold drizzle? "What a pretty day!"

I just can't stop seeing the beauty in the world. I love the mysterious changes fog brings as it shrouds familiar scenery, hiding some features and highlighting others. I'm thrilled by the unique colors of each season, so lately I've been rejoicing in autumn's palette. I dance in my heart as the sun bathes my world and me in its light and warmth. I'm enlivened by the pinprick tickles of mist and drizzle, and I smile at the drops on the windows as if I'm receiving friends at the door.

I suppose I'm like a child in Robert Louis Stevenson's garden of verse. I know I often think of myself as being in a garden; certainly my "world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings." If Abraham Lincoln was right, "most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." I guess I've made up my mind to see the fun and the sparkle, even in dark times, and yes, I'm happy, maybe as happy as a king - even when I'm sad.

"Roses and thorns," my mother would say. The flowers and the thorns are on the same bush. We have to decide which we'll notice. If we want roses, they come with thorns. Brilliant, graceful, fragrant flowers alongside fiercely pointed thorns. Some people talk about thorns all day and forget about the blossoms. My mother and I try to appreciate the blooms and steer clear of the thorns, even though we know they're there.

I guess "everything's coming up roses" for me. What a pretty day!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November Moon

I wish I had a camera - or knew how to use a camera - to take a picture of the moon.

I think of the moon as a friend. She is a companion in my evening walks, an encourager in my morning drives. I like to smile at the moon and imagine faraway loved ones smiling back.

I thought, as I watched this month the growing fullness of the moon, that I'd like to take a picture when she was round and silver in my sky. I can't get the camera to see what I see, though. Maybe I'll make notes about this moon, this November moon, in the year of our Lord 2013, and maybe I'll be able to compare this moon with other moons to come.

This moon, tonight, is just past full. A tiny slice has been taken from the upper right curve of her fullness. I saw her first in open sky, but my most familiar view is from my back porch, through trees that have shed at this point a little over half their leaves. If I'd been able to take a  picture, it would have shown black, mostly bare branches, and a few mixed deciduous leaves still deciding whether to stay or go. The moon's face would have been white against a black, cloudless sky. I missed seeing the fullest moment because we had heavy rains last night. The evening air is cool and crisp like the moonlight, and the wet leaves covering the porch send shiny smiles back upward.

Hello, moon. Thanks for the smiles.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What Do You Do with a Flower?


Do you pick a flower? A singular blossom, deep with color, fragrant in the sun - do you cut it, bring it in and watch it, beaming, meditating on its singular beauty? Keep the water fresh, trim the leaves as they wither. Do you hold it in your fingers gently, cradling its life slipping away, soaking in the memory of its perfection before you must remember it? Do you notice the smoothness of the petals, the silky texture of each unique surface? Do you touch it, stroke it, lift it to caress your face? Do you marvel at the pureness of the color, the intricacy of the shape, the delicacy of the fragrance? Do you? Do you pick a flower to keep and cherish, a little bit of the Garden captured for your private world?

Perhaps it's better cut and dried. Do you snip the stem carefully, smiling in wonder at the intricate detail, eager to save its form for posterity? Do you arrange it in its tissue coffin, every detail set to best advantage, then press, press, press away the air, the water, the danger of decay? Do you wait as it lies in darkness, holding your breath, anticipating the unveiling of the work you have wrought? Do you celebrate the timelessness of the preservation, sated by the gift you have taken?

Or do you leave a blossom blooming, feed and water it, cultivate it, and watch it grow? Do you go to visit it, sing with it, dance in the celebration of its presence? Do you marvel at the spherical swelling of raindrops sitting on its petals or the silver transformation of dewdrops frosting its morning? Do you share breath with it, pouring out your life to nourish it, taking in its fragrance to purify your spirit?

Can you own a flower? Do not presume so. You may only share life with a flower. It is here to live out beauty, and it cannot be limited by ownership. Anyone who looks to see a flower may be blessed by it. Even in death its essence may bring life to those who choose to live.

Will you consider the lilies?

Will you consider

me?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Red - Five Minute Friday

It's been a few weeks since I've been able to post here, but I couldn't pass up this prompt. It's about me!




Red?

I AM red. Red hair is the first thing people notice and the last thing they forget about me. It was my nickname through elementary and even high school: Debbie the Red, Red on the Head, just plain Red.

In third grade Thomas Geisberg called me a Redheaded Baldheaded Chinese Woodpecker, so I called him Gooseburger.

My favorite, because it's the most creative, was in high school, when Star Wars came out the first time, and a friend dubbed me R1, for Red One, but after R2D2.

One of the best greetings, to me: "How's my favorite redhead?"

I like being Red.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Beyond the Masks

I'm living with that idea from drama class - that acting is learning to take off masks. I'm living with it, letting it steep and percolate. I'm trying not to resist it, trying to keep from running away to hide behind my masks, behind my walls, behind my . . . behind my roles.

Can it be that I can only learn to be honest by learning to . . . act? Isn't acting pretending? How can I learn to be real by pretending?

A light dawns. This is why I react so strongly to theater: Because it is real! When theater is done well, the truth is there on display, unvarnished, for those who care to see. Good actors portray real, honest emotions and behaviors. Even as they wear the masks of characters they play, actors communicate real and relatable responses to challenges. I see the truth there and respond to it viscerally, to the degree that I have to take care what I watch because I can easily become distraught even though "it's just pretend." It's never just pretend. I often say, nowadays, that some truths can only be told in fiction, and I am becoming more and more adept at seeing those truths.

It's a choice I make, though. I choose to pay attention to the spirit's stirring within me, the whispers that are more meaningful than words, the sensing that defies explanation. I choose to look beyond the masks to the message, and that changes my response to every piece of art I encounter - visual, musical, literary, theatrical. I'm not a typical audience member, and today I'm understanding a new way I differ from the crowd.

It's the choosing: I choose to see truth. For most of us, though, it is much more comfortable and certainly more entertaining not to look too long there. Truth is often inconvenient. Most of us, rather than seeking the truth, prefer to see . . . the masks.

How do you choose?

Notes from Drama Class

I'm being brave like little Piglet again. This bravery is even more of a stretch than sharing a poem: I'm participating in a drama class.

The class is at my son's small, private school, and I'm allowed to sit in and observe. My agreement with the instructor, though, is that I will join in. Which, of course, means this is not a class for studying the history of theater or for discussing the styles of playwrights. I've done that, back in college when I realized how much theater meant to me. This class, though, is teaching acting, and learning is changing this learner.

I wanted that - I wanted to change from the person who broke out in hives at every piano recital and once refused to audition for a song I'd previously performed. I wanted to find out what is beyond that lump in the throat that tightens whenever I'm asked to do anything remotely like acting. I wanted the stretch.

God likes it when I want to stretch, and He helps me to see how everything that happens has layers of meaning. He helps me to see the broader applications of life's lessons. Drama, not surprisingly, has a lot of possibilities for broader application, especially as taught by this instructor who is committed to the idea that we must know ourselves before we can act at all. I like that; I'm always trying to figure out me, anyway. As the first class homework, I did a character analysis of myself, and my notes went to five pages!

I'm that way. I understand myself better if I write down what I learn. I hope to share some of that here, from drama class, from time to time, and perhaps in the sharing you'll get to know yourself better as well. Here's my first reflection.


August 20, 2013

Thinking about yesterday's exercise in drama class, I keep returning to the feeling . . . of feeling. I followed directions and tried to imagine how I would walk, look, smile, speak, saying the same simple line in a variety of contexts. By the end of the list of setups, when we were supposed to act as if something very sad had happened, I was focusing inward very sharply and acutely. We had time, took time, to come away from the fun and laughter of earlier scenarios, and we paid attention to the feelings associated with an actual, personal sad experience.

At the time, I simply went along quietly. I didn't actually participate in the exercise because I chose to observe instead, allowing the "real" students - the paying ones - to have partners and engage fully. Thus I was imagining how I would act but I was not acting. When it was over, though, as we reflected and debriefed, I began to feel as if I had brought to the surface something very personal and private.

If I draw on real experience and take the emotions from those experiences to inform my interpretation of a scene . . . if I act as if I am sad, but the actions are honestly re-telling a truth in the form of a fiction . . . do you begin to see my uncertainty? Where does pretending end and being begin? Am I revealing my private self when I act, pouring out who I am, for public scrutiny? To act, must I show the audience who I really am, even though I am showing it through a filter of fiction?

How else can I act, though, but as myself? I can only walk this way the way my body walks. I can only speak the way my voice can speak. Even if I copy the actions of another, I am doing so myself, and it is I performing the actions of interpreting another's actions.

I feel a little frightened by that idea.

I think I thought learning to act would mean learning how to wear a mask convincingly. I think now that perhaps it is the reverse of that: learning to act may mean learning to take off the mask and be convincing.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Small - Five Minute Friday

Lisa-Jo Baker describes the Five Minute Friday group as "a brave and beautiful bunch." Some days I'm braver than other days. I tell my children that being brave is not the same as not being scared: being brave is doing the important thing even when you're scared, I say. Today, I'm brave.

The Five Minute Friday prompt today is "small." I like these prompts because they can go in so many directions. Today my thoughts took me to a very introspective place, and whenever I go there I write more in images than in direct, logical sentences. I spent my five minutes pouring out a poem. That part wasn't scary, but this next part is.

I'm going to share my poem. Brave and beautiful, I'm going to put this out there because I want to be a real part of an honest community. I don't like hiding, I hate hypocrisy, and today I just couldn't come up with a pleasant, uplifting, encouraging post about "small." I felt too small to stand up and do such a big thing. Instead, I'm being truthful - and brave.

(Are you a fan of Winnie the Pooh? I am, and I am repeatedly surprised by how deep and true is the philosophy of life acted out in the Hundred Acre Wood. I think I'm acting like Piglet today.)
a brave and beautiful bunch
a brave and beautiful bunch

Without further ado, here are my thoughts.



Small

Small? Too large to realize
the living space, the sense of size,
regardless of the yawning need,
the emptiness, the ache to feed.

Small, the size of words that bite,
piercing hope with shreds of night.
Through the rips, the bindings hold,
pulled too tight against the cold.

Small, the thoughtless sacrifice:
automatic playing nice.
Make the picture fit the dream.
Stop the breath to mend the seam.

Small remaining world may see
whether there is room to be.
Take the tonic. Numb the pain.
Growing time will come again.

Friday, August 9, 2013

I Have a Name


But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
 And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover--
 But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
 
 T.S. Eliot, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, "The Naming of Cats."


I have a name. It is given me by God, and it is who I am. I cannot speak it. I cannot introduce myself to you by this name. I only know it . . . when I hear it . . . and when I hear it . . . I know myself.

I spend a lot of my life becoming: trying to be a better wife, mother, teacher, friend, writer. I try on personae like putting on clothes. One day I am fun and frivolous and colorful and spontaneous; another day I will be focused and reserved and reflective and subdued. I am many things to many people, and I try to be all things to all people, to save them from trouble or hurt, to help them become their best selves.

In all this service, though, sometimes I begin to feel disconnected. I took a personality survey recently and the results surprised me. I went back and took it again, more than once, each time focusing on a different aspect of me, of how I have behaved in different situations, of how I wish to behave in life. Every profile was distinct; there was no overlap. It would look to an analyst as if several different people had taken the test.

Am I several different people? Do I suffer from multiple personality disorder? No, but I wear many hats – I am called by many names – and by this age I suppose I’ve developed roles around all those costumes. When I start to feel too much like a character and not enough like the actor inside, that’s when I need to hear my true name.

That’s when God speaks it. When I’ve stretched as far from me as I can to become someone I think I’m supposed to be, God reminds me who I am. He says my name, the name only He can pronounce, the name never given to another in all of time and space, and I know. My spirit rings like a tuned bell, full and round and bright and alive, and I take a moment to breathe inside that dome of heavenly sound: my name. Yes, I am someone. I am unique. I am special. I am important.

I am worth saving.

I am who I am, and that is who I am intended to be. He looked at all His creation and called it good, and He created me. I can picture His eyes full of love and concentration, imagining every detail of me. I can hear the music of heaven in His voice as He gives me the seal of approval, a name. Whenever He calls me, if I pay attention, I realize that I am and always have been clay in this Potter’s hand, and that I have value because He says so. He gave me a name, a meaning, a hope and a future. He has plans for me.

I am His.

I do not belong to any of the people I try so earnestly to serve. I am not defined by the roles I play. I am not owned by the hats and scarves and garments I take on to become what I need to be. I have a name that is none of those things.

That name is who I am.

Even if I could speak that name, it would be reckless to do so. If I told you my name, it would be like giving you . . . myself, my destiny, my soul. It is my God-given name and only God can use it.

Sometimes, though – and this is a mystery – sometimes I hear my name spoken in voices I don’t expect. In a piece of music, a certain combination of notes and instruments might strike me so that I feel as if I am part of the song itself. In a story, even an old one, I might meet a piece of truth that is my truth, my heart beating outside of me in a fictional body. In the touch or the words of a friend – or sometimes a stranger – I may hear that resonance, that unique tone that is mine and mine alone, and I realize I am part of a grand symphony more complex than human mind can conceive.

It’s true even if my tone is just the triangle at the end of a coda. I have a unique essence, and I am essential.

I have a name.



Here's a fuller presentation of Eliot's poem, as brought to life by the cast of "CATS."

And HERE is another thought about names. A friend shared this on Facebook today and it was just too much of a coincidence for me to keep to myself.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Deadheading



Standing by his butterfly bush, my new friend Pat and I were talking about church and family, living and learning. He remarked, "If you aren't deadheading, you're missing blooms."

I smiled and nodded, a little mystified. The comment didn't seem to fit our conversation. But Pat is Irish and a musician, so I naturally assumed he was imparting deep meaning upon my humble, seeking mind. "Yes, true," I agreed, raising a thoughtful eyebrow, hoping to hide the fact that I was grasping for the truth veiled in his simple words.

I'm not sure how many minutes passed before I realized he was just talking about nipping off the dead blooms from his butterfly bush so the younger buds would develop more quickly. In addition to being Irish and a musician, Pat is a gardener, and while we visited his hands were busy neatening up the shrub and preparing it to bloom more fully. Since it was a butterfly bush, he was preparing it to attract more butterflies, as well.

The deep truth was there, though. My brain looks for allegory and message in everything, because I believe God speaks to us through the stories of life now just as Jesus did when He walked among us. In Pat's little self-explanatory sentence I heard echoes of a vinedresser's shears trimming fruitless branches, whispers of waiting brides keeping oil in their lamps, and footsteps of a discouraged young ruler who could not let go. God is in the details if only we'll listen.

Deadheading. Getting rid of what's no longer necessary, so that what is beautiful may come into being. If we aren't deadheading, we're missing blooms. If we aren't releasing anger and jealousy and disappointment and fear, those old, deadly habits will hang around until they kill us. Hands that are gripping hateful memories or vengeful thoughts cannot open in praise and they can neither give nor receive. We have to deadhead. We must cut off the spent, the used-up, the useless. We must learn to recognize what things are out of our control - and some of those things are controlling us, with our permission - and we must release our hold on them so that they will have no hold on us. Then we can be free to grow, to become, to expand our territories and walk in joy.

So here's a challenge: Have you heard a story within the story of your day? Have you listened? Listen now. And if you can't hear, consider letting go of whatever you're holding over your ears. You might be surprised by how much better you can see.



Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Moment of Reflection - I Saw Me

I don't really know who reads this. Sometimes it feels like I'm just talking to myself in a closet. I know what that's like, because there have been times in my life when I've done just that: times when I've felt too alone, too confused, too sad, or too angry.

I don't know who reads this, but if you're reading and you know what it sounds like to talk to yourself in a closet, maybe this article will help you put a name on how you feel. It did for me.

I don't know who reads this, but I'd very much like to hear from you. Do you ask questions that have no answers, like I do? Do you see answers that no one else sees? Do you hear truth in unexpected places? I do.

I don't know who reads this, but maybe you're like me. So maybe you'll find a connection in this article with the fancy name: "Existential Depression in Gifted Children." It said words that made sense to me. It described things I have done, things my children have done, ways we have been challenged and ways we have coped. It made me feel happy-sad and understood.


I cried.

Did you?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Beautiful - Five Minute Friday


I’ve finally come to the place where I know I am beautiful because God made me so. I’ve said those words before, but the change is that now I can honestly look in the mirror and see this body, worn from many years childbearing and childrearing, and know that the picture in the mirror is not who I am.

I am beautiful because I am beautiful.

I am not beautiful based on my figure, my hairstyle, my clothing, or my accessories. Mother always said, “Pretty is as pretty does.” She said that true beauty comes from the inside, and that if I would cultivate that inner beauty I would grow more beautiful with the years.

My mother is beautiful. When I was a little girl I used to cry happy tears over Miss America pageants, over how pretty the young women were, and I would always say, “But not as pretty as you, Mommy.” True to her word, she’s continued to cultivate the inner beauty and she is more beautiful as the years pass.

Maybe that’s what’s happening to me. Maybe I’m finally seeing the results of years of forgiveness, patience, kindness, giving, serving, and loving. Maybe the hard work of hushing my critical spirit to do what is right and put others before myself is paying  an unexpected bonus. Maybe choosing to smile instead of frown really does make us prettier.

Whatever it is, it sure feels good.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Listen - Five Minute Friday


I need to listen. I am a good listener, to those around me. I'm not so good at listening to me, though. I forget even to have a me sometimes. If I listen, though, I'm there.

Too often I think I'm listening to me when what I'm really doing is talking to me. Instead of paying attention to what I think or feel, I'm telling myself what I ought to think or feel. It's a delicate balance; sometimes I need someone to tell me how to behave, because I am selfish and arrogant and mean, but I'm not always those things, and they don't define all of me. Sometimes I listen to myself talking in the voice that tells me how to behave and it squashes my spirit and keeps me from celebrating the joy and beauty and peace that also reside in me. Talk less, listen more. I need to do that.

More important is that when I listen honestly, God is there. I hear what other people say about God. I read the Bible to hear about God. When I get still and listen, though, I hear God. I hear what He says about Himself and what He says about me.

I have to be very, very quiet to listen in that way. I have to be so still that I hear my own breath before I can hear the inspired God-breathed words. It only takes a moment, though. I don't have to go far away. I don't even have to be alone.

All I need to do is listen.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fall - Five Minute Friday

The password is “fall.”

Remember when Password was a game, not a fixture of life? It fell by the wayside about the same time as Richard Nixon. Almost that long ago, well, only a few years later, I received a microwave oven as a birthday gift from my soon-to-be-ex-fiancé. He fell away shortly thereafter, before my marrying him would have made the mistake permanent, but that microwave has been a fixture in my life ever since.

I learned to cook with that microwave, pleased with myself for saving time, conserving energy, reducing dishwashing and cutting fat. It wasn’t all sales hype; the microwave really did change the way I ran my kitchen.

It’s a huge thing, as big as some dorm refrigerators, but it’s been a faithful servant and a fixture in my kitchen for nearly thirty years. I’m glad we didn’t pay the extra $150 for the one-year extended warranty. It’s never needed service. It’s one of the things that I don’t even realize I assume to be permanent. Like honeybees on clover or trees on the hillside, it just is. It’s been here so long that I’ve never even thought about its not being. Of course, the honeybee population fell off years ago, despite my letting clover take over my yard to feed the few survivors; and the trees on too many hillsides are felled at an alarming rate these days.

My second son, as a toddler running in the house, got a warning from my father: “You better slow down. You’ll fall and break something.”

The little bounder shot back, “You can’t break me. I’m a people thing!” Sure enough, he didn’t fall that day, and the falls on subsequent days have never broken him, either.

I guess I thought the microwave was like that. We can’t break it. It’s a microwave thing.

We wore it out, though. I mean, I guess we did. It wouldn’t thaw cheesecake last night and it won’t cook oatmeal this morning. I’m pretty sure a service call is not in order for a 1984 microwave. It’s just that – I don’t know how to – think about – my day – without a microwave, that particular microwave, with the burned place from a foil-wrapped burger that my little sister put in when the oven was new; with a missing temperature probe that fell down behind the refrigerator two houses ago and wasn’t worth retrieving; with a stand just for it because it takes up too much counter space in our little kitchen and it’s too big to fit under the cabinets anyway. I don’t get attached to things, usually, but I feel as if a piece of my universe just disappeared and left a big-old-microwave-sized hole right there in the kitchen part of space-time. My microwave fell out of existence.

I guess I’ll have to be careful not to fall in, too.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Remembering PERSON, NOT A


DAVIS
MICHAEL W
### ## ####
A POS
PROTESTANT

This is not a person.

We wore dog tags
and POW bracelets to remember men we would never know.
They were athletes
musicians
poets
preachers
artists
lovers
sons, brothers, husbands, fathers
friends.

NAGY
EDWARD J
### ## ####
O NEG
CATHOLIC

This is not a person.

Children unaware,
we only knew something bad was happening somewhere we couldn't go.
They laughed
cried
worried
blessed
helped
healed
smiled
suffered
sang
fought.

MILLARD
PHILIP M
### ## ####
B POS
JEWISH

This is not a person.

We hoped for change
though we did not know to what or from what,
and we did not know things never change.
They were brave
young
handsome
dashing
important
patriotic
good
lost.

But

RODRIGUEZ
RICARDO L
### ## ####
A NEG
PROTESTANT

was not a person
to us.

Why do the men in the dark sedan give dog tags to mothers and wives?

This is not a person.

You take away a priceless human being
and return a piece of stamped metal?

You throw away a life,
a piece of combat equipment,
a fighting unit,
and bring her

SOMEONE
SON O
### ## ####
A POS
GONE

Friday, May 24, 2013

View - Five Minute Friday

 
So it’s Friday again, and this time I’m meeting the day as it begins, still up at 1:00 a.m. This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is “view.” I decided to take a look at that for a while before retiring.

Five minutes: Go.

View is larger than sight
because view sees beyond what is there
to what it means,
I think.

I have a long view
of life,
and it helps me see
what’s important,
what’s nonessential,
what’s enduring,
and what’s not.


When I say there’s a lovely view,
some people just look quickly and nod agreement,
but others know
that I mean the sight has meaning:
it is lovely because of something,
something other than its appearance.

I suppose in my world,
this one, I mean,
the one everyone can see,
appearances mean more than views.


The way I see it,
life is all about the view.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Smiling


I decided to smile on purpose, twelve & more years ago. I decided to help my face grow into a pleasant appearance, so that I wouldn't have frown lines and scowls engraved in the delicate muscles of my countenance. Once they're carved, that's what I have to work with. I know this. I study faces. I take notes. I know my heritage. I've watched in slow motion the women whose faces age into troubled and distant masks, tough coverings etched with disappointment and fear and suffering. I've seen other women whose faces have developed into radiant reflections of the joy they chose to live out.

I decided to make a stand against the frown lines, to be me, to let my face reflect the peace my faith provided. I'd fallen into a habit of scowling when I concentrated, and I realized that face, ostensibly at rest, gave testimony of much more suffering than had been my lot. It was an ungrateful face, a lying face that I was creating by not paying attention, by doing what came naturally instead of what could be done intentionally. I did not wish to bear false witness. Instead I chose to make my face show that I knew God was in charge, that I did not need to fear, that I was celebrating the freedom of trusting in Him. I wanted a face that would draw people to Him, and I set out to make my face be that.

Recent months have brought a number of challenges and I've fallen unconsciously into the old natural habits again. My face is reflecting my earthly situation and not my place in the kingdom of God. Yes, I've been weary, and tired people don't make good decisions. Exhaustion tends to make us fall into old patterns of behavior. So I can use that excuse if I want it, but I don't want it. The habits are making the lines whether I mean them to be made or not. So I'm remembering again today, remembering to look up, to smile, to say without words what my heart knows to be true.

I'm remembering - because God kept bringing it to mind all morning - that all things work together for the good of those who love The Lord. I certainly love Him, and I'm going to smile today and believe that even my crazy schedule and list of tasks is part of His plan for my good; that if I'm out of balance He'll show me; that going through trials will help polish me so that I can reflect Him better.

If you see me NOT smiling, will you remind me to remember?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Thank-You Note

I am thankful today for sheets on the clothesline,
sunshine to dry them,
and indoor plumbing.

I like the fact that those things could have been on my grandmother's thank-you list, too.

I also like the fact that when I choose to be thankful it changes my world.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Woman Song

I wrote this a few days before the Five Minute Friday prompt was published for May 17. But it was a five-minute work, and it fits the theme, "Song." I hope it still fits the rules, because it's the only song I'm coming up with during my busy, wearying, joy-filled days. I'm going to say "it's a God thing" that it came to me early.

* * *

Maybe because of Mother's Day. Maybe just because. I thought of how music lifts spirits in trying times, and about how being a woman gives opportunity to experience a fair share of those. My friend Wil Maring once reminded me that even the sad songs make us feel happier. Anyhow, the musing turned into this:

Woman Song

Sing we now of things to be
of wars and dreams and worlds to see
of love and life and broken glass
of wishes that may come to pass

Sing we of the moments kissed
of pain and mercy, loved ones missed
of past and present, now and then
of memories that thrive again

Sing we of our limits found
of promises forever bound
of hope endured and peace restored
of losses we can ill afford

Sing we of the blessed child
of taming hearts forever wild
of growing up and growing old
of dancing warm and giggling cold

Sing we loud with silent voice
of tears that fall when we rejoice
of meaning hiding in plain view
of living lies and staying true

We sing.


Deborah L. W. Roszel
May 12, 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Comfort - Five Minute Friday



Comfort ye, my people, saith your God.

It's not a cozy comfort I'm thinking about. It's a comfort in knowing a cozy comfort awaits.

Sometimes life is hard. Busy and intense and protracted like labor. Which is not to say it isn't good. Life is good and hard. And comfortable.

Someday may never come, but someday I'm going to be able to sit down and say, "Yes, that was done well." Perhaps God's reward will come at heaven's gate; I want the comfort of knowing I am doing well so that I will hear His voice say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

That's definitely not cozy comfort. That's about being brave and patient and bare and strong and broken and determined for a long, long time. That's about doing the hard things when no one else does. But I take comfort from the promises that the work will bear fruit, comfort from the examples of those who have gone before and shown the way (and the fruit).

Here and now, today, my comfort often comes from making others comfortable. Is it coincidence that "comfort" starts the same way as "community" and "commitment"? I think not. I think comfort is something that comes when we share, when we pour out ourselves together in love.

Like Winnie the Pooh, though, I'm not sure I'm right about all this.

Wonder what Christopher Robin would say.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Four days after the wedding . . . finding my way back to normal

Today I am cardboard.






Not marble,

not patiently formed,

gracefully curved,

caressed into life

or beauty.







No, marble is alive.

I am cardboard.


Not metal,

not smoothly reflective,

carefully polished,

pressed into service

or function.


No, metal is alive.

I am cardboard.


Cardboard,

intentionally severed,

mindlessly shredded,

drowned to submission

or pulp.






All the life

squeezed and dried,

edges and corners

shaped into die-cut

semblance.






I am cardboard.

Still I lie.

Stiff, dull, dry.

Bland, harmless, useful.

Even recyclable.




Tomorrow I'm coming back as a butterfly.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mother-Son Dance


I couldn't eat at the reception for my son's wedding.

There was plenty of food, and I liked it just fine. But halfway through the meal I remembered that there would be a mother-son dance and we hadn't practiced. We'd barely talked about it, weeks before. My stomach tensed and my throat closed up and I couldn't eat another bite.

I ought not to be so silly. It's just that the idea of dancing, in front of people, all alone - it was terrifying. I would look awkward. I would step wrong. I wouldn't follow correctly. I would trip. I would be ugly and embarrassing and shameful.

I kept breathing, kept waiting, kept smiling, kept praying secretly in words I could neither hear nor understand. Did you see what I wrote today about being brave? I was brave. The father-daughter dance came first. The thoughtful and attentive DJ came over just before announcing it to let me know I wasn't being left out; their dance would be at this time, then a few more activities, then later the mother-son dance. The bride and her father danced; I didn't really watch, not that I remember much; it was behind me and I was dealing with fear. Other daughters and fathers were invited to dance. My daddy was at the back of the room and I saw him stand. I stood to go meet him. The music kept playing. People congratulated me; they didn't realize I was going to dance with my daddy. I got to him, worried, afraid the music would end and I'd walk all the way through the room and onto the dance floor with him for no reason, unsure if he really wanted to dance or if he felt comfortable at all, and fearful on my own account because it was dancing. I hugged him. He asked how I was doing. "OK." Half a breath caught in my throat. "Mostly OK." And then I started crying on his shoulder, and he gave me his hanky. That's what he's always done. He's always carried one, folded neatly in his pocket, ready for a lady's tears.

I cried out the fear and held onto the hope he offered with his hanky, hope that I could be brave and strong. I told him I loved him and he told me he loved me, that I should always remember that. He's never said it like that, "always remember that." It made me tell him the same, that I always love him. It made me realize he won't always be here to tell me, so it's important to remember. We didn't dance after all, but I'll never forget the moment with him.

I did better after that. The mother-son dance came, and I faced my son and we danced. He'd chosen "Unforgettable" by Nat and Natalie Cole. Of course that made me smile; he knows me well. I only felt a little awkward, and he smiled and made polite conversation to put me at ease. I stepped as well as I could, and followed acceptably, I think - at least I didn't trip. I didn't feel ugly. And no one told me later that I embarrassed or shamed them. He thanked me for all I'd done to make the weekend special. We hugged and I told him I loved him and was proud of him and happy for him, and he said he loved me.

It was just right.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Brave - Five Minute Friday

I was brave this weekend because every single thing I did was something I’d never done before. I was a first-time mother of the groom. That’s why I’m writing today instead of Friday; it took me this long to have five minutes to sit still and write.

I tell my children that being brave doesn’t mean not being scared. It means doing the right thing even when you’re scared. I was scared a lot this weekend, but it all turned out well. I’m still quite scattered, unpacking, etc., but I kept thinking about things that are brave, so I’ve listed them. (Just so you know, they didn't all happen this weekend.)

going to your first dance
dancing
hosting a party
getting married
complimenting a stranger
caring for an infant
finishing the course
going to college
getting a job
living on a budget
smiling when you don’t feel like it
eating strange food
taking yucky medicine
accepting failure
getting out of bed
swimming in dark water
driving to the airport
holding a hand
waiting
staying quiet
listening
admitting your mistake
loving


Friday, April 26, 2013

Friend - Five Minute Friday


I did it! I’ve missed three weeks, I think, doing Five Minute Fridays. I am intentionally not going back to count. This morning I saw the prompt and just wrote. I didn’t feel guilty about the ones I’d skipped. I didn’t think, “Oh, I should go back and do those others so I’ll have done the whole assignment.” I didn’t listen to the voice that said I didn’t have time and I probably wouldn’t do a good job anyway, what with all the other things happening in my life right now. So when I say, “I did it!” I’m saying that I overcame the voices of defeat and discouragement this morning before they even had a chance to speak. I’m also saying that I just wrote.

Just writing is so good for me. It’s like exhaling after going around holding my breath, holding my tongue, holding my heart carefully in prayerful hands to keep it from speaking out of turn. I write and I feel the taut muscles in my mind relax. Then I get to read what I’ve written, take another deep breath, and go away to the many non-writing tasks of my day. Inhale. Exhale. I am very grateful for breathing today.

I’m also grateful for friends, and that’s the topic for today’s Five Minute Friday assignment: Friend. So here’s my bit about that, in five minutes or so.



To have a friend, be a friend, my mother used to say. I hope I am a friend. Sometimes I feel so blessed by my friends that I wonder what I ever give back. I look at the time they spend listening, encouraging, hugging, cheering, and sometimes just waiting, and I wonder if I give as good as I get.

My very closest friends are the ones in whose presence I feel whole and, despite all indications to the contrary, normal. They “get” me. I do spend a lot of effort explaining myself, because I think communication is important. But sometimes, even with well-meaning listeners, it seems as if the explaining is in the wrong language. My best friends speak my language. They know that when I say I’m going shopping, it means I am facing an unpleasant challenge. They know that if I mention that it’s a rainy day, I may be reflective but I am not sad on account of the weather – I may even be happy for the grey. They understand what I say and also what I mean.

I don’t know what language that is, the one I speak that they understand. I guess everyone has a friend language, an unnamed way to speak from the heart to those who are willing and able to hear. Whatever it is, I’m glad I speak it and I’m even more glad they understand it.

Having a best friend makes it easier to breathe in those moments when life sucks the air out of me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Knowing Me




"You Don't Know Me."

It's an old Ray Charles tune to me; it was on one of my daddy's vinyl albums. Mother didn't like Ray; she thought he was too raw, I think. Daddy and I liked him just fine, and I still warm to the edginess in his voice and peformance style.

This is a new interpretation, and it was an instant favorite. That's not just because of the song, but very much because of the singer. I love the way Wil’s singing rests on Robert’s accompaniment. She doesn’t push her voice out, doesn’t force the notes into shape. It’s as if she’s lying in a hammock of guitar lines, gently rocking with the bass, eyes closed, breathing in and exhaling music. I love this song.

I think Wil sings how I want to live. Peaceful, in tune, one with the music of the spirit. Somehow it feels as if this song . .  . knows me.

I like being known.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Unexpected Jewel


I found a jewel in a surprising box. Its beauty took my breath away. Days later, I'm still trying to take in how it could have such an effect on me.

It's a gift shop, I suppose: Seven Silver Seas, in Maggie Valley, NC. I don't like gift shops, especially here. I only go in when my family members ask to go. I don't like the plastic and the Made in China. I don't like the "Indian" wares that have nothing to do with local culture or history; I feel insulted that meaningful Plains Indian traditions are shipped to China to be fashioned into trinkets to be sold to children (and adults) who are led to believe these pieces of plastic and paper and all-wrong feathers represent a connection with the ancient heritage of the Cherokee. It's not a personal insult, other than to my intelligence. As far as I know, I have no Native American genetic links, but I can still respect the uniqueness of each people group and the meanings of their traditions within that context. I do have Appalachian genetic links, and I also find it demeaning that the humans who made a life here, using local resources skillfully to work and play and create, are reduced in these gift shops to corn-cob-pipe-smoking moonshiners with guns and no brains. It's a lot to think about, and maybe I think too much, but this is why I don't like tourist gift shops.

Why, then, would I go into a store surrounded with purple baskets of purple and yellow real and  artificial flowers? Purple rocking chairs line its front, a purple picnic table sits under a purple awning; the front of the clapboard house is painted purple. This is too much, isn't it? Too-too cute. Too-too colorful. Too-too whimsical. Isn't it? But I like purple. It always catches my eye. And my husband even pointed out the shop to me, expecting me to respond positively. I held my tongue and reserved judgment. I don't like gift shops.

"You'll love our jewelry" says the sign out front. The sign doesn't specifically say "gift shop," but instead it has that intriguing name, "Seven Silver Seas." Is it a craftsman's shop? Is there a silversmith inside, fashioning jewelry from raw metal? I do want a pair of earrings - purple ones, in fact. Maybe there are real earrings in there, not plastic shiny baubles that will lose color or fall apart after a wearing or two. An idea began to nudge me. I could go alone, without the family, peek in and look only for purple earrings, slip out before anyone knew I'd been shopping. You see, not only do I not like gift shops, I don't like shopping. I don't like browsing, choosing, spending money. So I can't casually say to my family, "I think I'll run over to that little purple gift shop up the road."

On the third morning, I did it. "I'm taking a walk. I'm going to head over to that purple gift shop." They slept in, I enjoyed the morning. I walked past a mountain stream pouring itself over its rocky bed. I greeted the resting trees lining the banks, waiting for spring to fill their limbs again. I crossed the stream on a footbridge and looked for fish darting near the pilings. The road skirts a deep-green, black-earth pasture with a few grazing cattle, dark as the mud, one nursing her newest masterpiece. I left the herd and strode between the purple baskets of bright flowers and up to the front door. A gentleman exiting the shop held the door. I stepped inside and held my breath.

Where am I?
This is no gift shop. The air isn't even the same. The light is all . . . right. Gift shop light is wrong - artificial, harsh, slightly flickering from a worn-out ballast somewhere over in a corner. This is warm, live light. The colors here are rich and organic; no melted plastic colored to resemble the real thing. I exhaled, inhaled, and turned to the left.

I entered a room full of gently hanging clothing. These were soft, natural fabrics, the kind that flow over bodies like a breeze, covering and celebrating the human form. I fingered a blouse. Organic cotton, hand-dyed, hand-stitched. Someone personally poured life into this garment. There were skirts and scarves and dresses and not one single Great Smoky Mountains T-shirt with a likeness of a bear or a mountain. No machine-stamped, mass-produced, impersonal identical souvenirs here. Not a gift shop, at least not the kind I dislike. There was music, too - a lilting chanteuse singing en français, accompanied by an acoustic guitar. That was the last straw. I was never going to be able to leave this place!

I had to leave, though. I knew I couldn't stay all day; the family expected me back. Besides that, I wasn't even a shopper; more of a tourist (perish the thought) traveling through this unexpected world of beautifully crafted goods. Earrings - that's why I came in. I moved over to the second room, to the right of the front door. Here was the jewelry I'd love, as foretold on the sign out front.

The sign was right. The jewelry was gorgeous. There were bracelets and necklaces and pendants in glass cases. The clerk (long hair, large eyes, flowing bright skirt and jacket)  let me know the earrings were in boxes on top of all the cases. Boxes organized by color, as it turned out. That's just my style. I didn't rush to the purples, though. There were too many pretties along the way. Simple and ornate, spirals and lines, filigrees and solids - the variety was quite impressive; surely there was something for everyone, for every occasion, here.

If I hadn't been struck dumb by the experience, I'd have asked who made all this. I'd have asked where the materials came from. I'd have asked about the vendors for the clothing from all over the world. I'd have asked about the vegan leather purses. I'd have inquired about the incense. But I couldn't ask. I couldn't speak. My heart was in my throat, and it was a heart swelling with joy. I was breathing in color. I felt as if I were dancing, though my feet were quite still in front of the jewelry case. At last I was able to move toward the door, thank the clerk, and step outside.

I couldn't leave, though. I sat on one of those preposterous purple rocking chairs and I wept. Tears just fell out of my eyes and washed over my smile. What a beautiful store!

It was the realness that got to me, I think. I'm exceptionally sensitive to phoniness. I need truth, honesty, and nature. In the Seven Silver Seas shop I found items made of natural materials, colored with God's pigments, crafted individually by talented hands. This, in contrast to where I'd been recently, was enough to catch my notice. On a spiritual level, though, there was even more.

When I'm in a place where many people have lived and loved and struggled, my spirit is touched by the painful beauty of human life. Many times I've stopped to meditate in a historic site or a church or a theater. I feel a connection to those who have gone before, a sorrow and rejoicing with the mortality and eternity of being human. I think that's what really overpowered me at Seven Silver Seas. It was the connection to people around the world who had labored over these items, individually crafting each one, giving their best to create a beautiful thing each time. Nothing here was stamped out by a machine, tooled in a huge factory, impersonally brought into being as an identical copy of millions of other nondescript things. Each piece is unique, like the person who made it, like the person who will use it.

Finding all this in one small building was unexpected. Finding all this beauty in any building was unexpected. I sure am glad I didn't judge this "book" by its cover.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Moment of Music


My heart is aching for music. I'm in the mountains with only two of my children, just the three of us, and I've been awake for hours, alone. This never happens at home, of course. It is a time to cherish, a time to pay attention to what I want, just me, and one thing I like is music. So I'm enjoying music.

How am I doing that? I'm working on income taxes. (I just can't ever get them done early, so I brought along boxes of papers on vacation. One small bag of clothes and four milk crates of files - not your usual luggage for a retreat, but I am usually unusual.) So here I sit, going through online bank records, making lists of deductions, and listening to music. My friend Mathai has a new single, so I started with her song from iTunes, then I went to her station on my Pandora site. After a while I wanted instrumental so I switched to my Bach station on Pandora.

Does music ever paralyze you? Maybe it's just me, but I can't comfortably listen to music all the time as background accompaniment to life. Music speaks to me, and I consider it rude to interrupt when someone is speaking. Especially if the music has lyrics, I have trouble talking or reading or thinking with it on. A big chunk of my brain pays attention to words, and I find myself listening to a lyric, even a familiar one, instead of listening to the people in the room. That, for me, is also rude. People, especially people who are present with me, are more important than words. So I generally don't turn on the radio or Pandora or a CD unless I'm alone. I habitually turn off those things when someone comes into a room with me.

I don't think music is supposed to isolate me, though. I love listening to music with someone or a whole room full of someones. I think music engenders community because it communicates in a way words alone cannot. Music speaks to our spirits and reminds them to dance. I guess part of the reason I turn off music when someone enters is because I'm a self-conscious dancer. I'm not as free and confident as I'd like to be, so I don't dance a lot in company. I don't let my spirit dance in company, either, unless the company is all dancing together. Dancing feels . . . intimate . . . to me, even in public, so I'm careful about who knows I'm dancing.

With those dearest to my heart, I am able to dance freely, and for them I do not always turn off the music. With them, I can be on vacation any time - I can dance and sing and play and celebrate the joy of life, even in tiny moments of connection. It's those moments that help me keep my balance in a world that does not seem to allow much dancing. They're my little secret, those smiles and giggles and wiggles that happen in the midst of all the Very Serious Work of Life.

Today, the Very Serious Work is income tax preparation, but still I am dancing. And the music did grab me and paralyze me once - that's why I'm writing, to think it through, to figure it out. I turned to look out the picture window across the valley. I stood as if I could see the mountain opposite more clearly if my head were a foot and a half higher. Something unfamiliar was playing on Pandora, piano, reflective, probably Romantic. I couldn't ignore it. It pulled me in to the sweet sadness of the melody, the hopeful longing of the tune. It became a story and I couldn't move my eyes from the screen. I kept gazing at the mountains just far enough away to be untouchable. I unconsciously pressed hands to the glass as if joining a partner, as if that would bring me closer to the peak, where a house is perched, where the view of two valleys must be magnificent. I gasped at the imagining of such a sight. I don't know how long I stood - only a couple of minutes, maybe just a few seconds - but it was like dream time, when no time passes and everything is in the present, in the experience, in the moment.

The moment passed. Somehow I woke; I guess the music changed. I relaxed from my dancing posture and turned to find everything unchanged. The papers are still here, with the columns of numbers. The bank website is still up. The clock in the kitchen is still ticking. The children are still asleep. No changes but one.

My heart is aching for music. I started by going to music to keep me company. I gave in to the attraction, paid attention to it more and more, and now I want to do nothing else. I want to fill my head and heart and spirit with all the music I can find. I want to feel the life that only music can explain. I want to be one with the music, to dance its truth with no thought of ever stopping.

I guess I'll have to settle for Pandora and income taxes.

I sure am glad for those secret moments, though.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Broken - Five Minute Friday


This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is "Broken." I wasn't ready for it Friday. Not on Good Friday, the day of all the year when I am most swept away by the spiritual. Not on the day when my attention is continually drawn to events that changed the world a couple of thousand years ago, events we commemorate during this season. I wasn't ready Saturday, the day when it feels as if the world held its breath: the Son of God was dead and buried; what could possibly happen next? I wasn't ready until after Sunday's sunrise service, when we celebrated the empty tomb, when the outrush of breath and inrush of incredulous joy reminded me yet again of the miracle of Easter, of life after death, of eternity mine. Then, after letting the rejoicing ring in my heart until the last lingering note faded, after  spending time in community and family (and celebrating my coincidental birthday a bit), THEN I was ready. Now, here it is - my writing on the topic, "Broken."

* * *

We are told that we live in a broken world. Preachers, politicians, and activists tell us so, and they all have ways for us to fix it. But what does it mean to say our world is broken?

For me, it means I live in two states of being at all times. I was created to be in fellowship with a loving Creator. He loves me as I am and He sees me as lovable, whole, and beautiful. However, not everyone in my world sees me as He does, and I often don't, either. It's as if my lenses are broken, fracturing my vision.

If I focus on Him, pay attention to what I understand about His love for this world and everyone in it, then I see things as hopeful and alive. But if I move my eyes just a little, even just a blink, I might all at once looking through a crack in my broken lenses, distorting and making everything seem impossible and ugly. One little eyeblink, and I move from feeling whole to feeling broken.

It's like standing with a foot on either side of a stream. If I were on one side, it would look a certain way, but from the other side, the light would be different, so the water and the bank and the trees would all look different. But I'm not on either side, I'm on both, and the bridge, the way from one side to the other, is broken. I don't have strength to push myself away from either bank to commit to the other. I'm stuck, looking through broken lenses, and I feel as if I might break.

I guess that's where Jesus comes in. He lived a human life, too, in a fallen world. Surely He felt the tug of war that brokenness engenders. But since He lived a perfect life in spite of the brokenness, wholeness won. He offers to be the bridge that connects the broken parts of my life, condemned and forgiven, body and spirit, fear and faith. He places Himself between my two states of being and lets me be the one He made me to be.

Loved, whole, beautiful. I am, you are, the world is. If only we can remember to look through the right part of the lenses, we'll see things aren't broken after all.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Am A Woman

Today is an I Am A Woman sort of day. I guess I realized it when my daughter (9) and a girlfriend (15) started planning to get together for a visit. The friend lives an hour away so at least two parents (40-something and 50-something) are now involved in this adventure. I was all fine and ready to go for it until they decided on a location:

A. Mall.

Now, if You Are A Woman, there’s a chance you might think this would be a fun outing. You’d be figuring out whatever women like you figure out when you’re getting ready for such an expedition. Me, I Am A (different sort of) Woman.

I hate to shop. I told my sons, back when sons were all I had (no daughter), that I’d rather have strep throat than go shopping, and I jolly well meant it. I’d had strep throat fairly recently before that remark was made, and I knew what kind of pain I was talking about. WAAAAY better than shopping.

So today when things headed south, so to speak, I was desolate. I tried to think of things, terrible things, that might be worse than shopping. Cleaning out a sewer. Nope. Mucking out a stall. Nope. Picking up trash on the roadside. Nope. My son (13) tried a few suggestions having to do with personal injury or danger. Nope. I really couldn’t think of anything I could do voluntarily that I would like less than shopping.

And my daughter wants to go meet a friend at A. Mall.

Of course I had to get inside my head and fix it. What could I do at this mall that would be worthwhile? I’m usually more into being than doing, but at a mall I need a purpose. Well, there’s the wedding to shop for. I still need shoes. I checked the mall directory. Yeah, they have shoe stores. Great. I mean, Oh, yes! They have shoe stores! Fantastic! And they have some reasonably priced dress stores so we can look at dresses for my daughter as well! This is going to work after all.

The greatest help, though, came from someone else Who Is A Woman, and a fabulous one – the bride at the pending wedding, my future daughter-in-law. I told her I was having an emotional crisis. She knows about me and shopping. She got me talking about the dress for my daughter and gave me some confidence that I actually, truly could find and purchase a reasonable dress for a reasonable price at A. Mall. She’s great at talking me off ledges – but that’s not all.

Not only did she calm me down, but an hour later she was shopping and she called me. She’d found a dress that might work for my daughter for the wedding or rehearsal. Could she buy it, at least on trial? I want to mention here that this young woman has been with me when I’ve purchased several important dresses, and she always finds the best prices and the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever worn. Yes, if you must know, she even found the dress I’m wearing in the wedding – otherwise I’d be looking for shoes and a dress for me at A. Mall.

I got through that crisis, then, and a short time later I went to an awards banquet for my middle school son (the 13). I enjoyed putting on clothes that made me feel pretty. I liked how I looked in the mirror. I was confident and poised when I went out of the house and I still had it together when I went into the meeting. I Am A Woman, I thought, and a darn good one, and I like being here with other people.

I haven’t always felt this way, you know. Until two years ago, I was rarely confident,  poised, or pretty. I hid my talents, my body, my personality. I was shy and embarrassed and afraid of exposure. Thanks to divine intervention in a big way, all that has changed, and today was a day when I could celebrate being Me, upper case.

Then I saw me, lower case.  She was a middle school Girl Almost Woman. She had gorgeous, long, thick, curly hair; gracefully curved eyebrows; a full, feminine figure. And she was up in front to receive her award and her eyes didn’t know where to look and her face was placid but far from calm. She looked ready to dart from her place as soon as someone would open the cage of public attention and show her a back way out. But she stayed, lovely and graceful in her printed dress and wedge sandals. She stayed and she waited it out and she lasted without a single wayward oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-believe-I-did-that. She was serene in her victory – at least I considered her so.

I Am A Woman, I thought, and so is she. A young one she is, but a darn good one, and I want to be sure she knows so. I went out of my way as I left so I could lean over, give her a hug, and tell her how beautiful and elegant she looked this evening. She smiled and thanked me.

I hope she hears words like mine often.  If she doesn’t, I hope my words will take root in her heart and give her strength and confidence as she faces a world that may or may not appreciate her, may or may not understand her, may or may not call her beautiful.

It’s a funny thing about women. We need to know we’re beautiful to be strong. We need to spend time with friends who like being with us. We need to shop for shoes and special clothes at A. Mall. We need to hear encouragement from friends. We need to know someone believes in us. We’re beautiful, all of us, because God made us so, but we forget that truth much too easily.

Just now, in this moment, I am strong. I am beautiful. I Am A Woman, and I am glad.

* * * * *

This was fun! I wrote today for a new weekly challenge: Just Write - The Extraordinary Ordinary. As the title indicates, this one encourages folks to write - just write - and share. I don't know if I'll be able to do this one weekly, but I'm glad to have done it once.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Remember - Five Minute Friday

It's Friday again, time to get my prompt from Lisa Jo Baker and her Five Minute Friday challenge. She posts a word just after midnight Eastern time and a whole bunch of us write in response for five minutes.  We're supposed to write freely, without editing, backtracking, or overthinking. This week's prompt was "Remember," so I did!



Sometimes I have a moment that I know I must remember.

Two years ago, I sat on a front porch step in the middle of the night, looking at the moon. I saw a cloud pass in front of the moon, but the moon was still visible, still shining, and the ambient light barely changed.

"Remember."

I needed to remember that I could choose to look at the cloud or choose to look at the moon. I could choose to focus on darkness or on on light.

I needed to remember that darkness cannot overcome light, but light can overcome darkness. I'm not talking about just spiritual stuff here. This is physics. Light is. It goes and goes. It can't be erased or stopped. It can be bent and redirected and focused and diverted, but it is not overcome. You can't stuff it into a too-small box and deprive it of air        and expect it to stop being what it is.

I needed to remember that there would be clouds in my life, but I could choose to see beyond them.

I needed to remember that full moon making a black world silver-white and remember to look for joy to light my nights and days.

So it's two years later now, and sure enough, clouds have come and gone and come again, in different ways at different times. Weather changes, clouds move, life goes on. Just now, right at this moment, it's feeling pretty overcast here. But I won't give up.

I remember.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rest - Five Minute Friday


Five Minute Friday. Go.

I've been so busy today I haven't stopped even to think about writing about rest.

Huh.

Usually I think while I'm being busy. What happened?

It seems that when I feel too busy I stop thinking about rest because instead I'm thinking about what else I need to be busy doing. My thoughts are agitated - just like clothes in the washer, turning and churning, going nowhere - but my thoughts don't improve during this cycle. They don't get cleaner or brighter or more colorful. Instead they tend to spin me dry. Sometimes it feels more like they're being washed by hand, my head banging against a rock or bumping along a washboard. Still, they don't look any better after the full treatment, and neither do I. And the rest I need, basking in the light and warmth of God's peace, is no nearer when my thoughts are twisted around one another, wrung out and piled up, waiting for whatever comes next.

Lord, help me to rest. It's after midnight! Why do I keep pressing when I've been exhausted three times already today, barely able to keep moving? Will You please take these messy thoughts, my mental dirty laundry? Will You spot treat or soak or whatever they need so that when You hang them to dry I'll see order and light again? Oh, Father, how many times You have done my laundry when I haven't asked. Thank you for making me aware today that I need to ask, and thank you for letting me rest while You do the work I cannot do.

Stop.

Unwind, unwind, unwind. I'm going to take it on faith that my prayer will be answered, and that will be rest indeed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Can We Ever Sacrifice?

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
-       Jim Elliot


I’m thinking about sacrifice today along with Ann Voscamp and others in her community over on her page.

I am thinking about sacrifice, and this sentence comes to mind.“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” It was written, of course, by a man whose very life was taken as he served others in selfless love.

And I’m thinking about what sacrifice really means.

You see, if I lay down everything for love,

I gain

everything.

I give up what has value to me, but in return I gain what has true and lasting value beyond my dreams.

Is it sacrifice for a mother to stay home with her children, give up career and haircuts and new clothes and shiny cars and dinners out, so that she can see new human beings grow and become faithful followers of Christ?

Is it sacrifice to stay in a marriage that is difficult, give up the storybook ideals and fairy tale expectations and wait for joy through gritted teeth, if the result is learning how to love more perfectly?

Is it sacrifice to risk judgment by opening my heart and baring my soul if by so doing I find a community with shared need and shared blessing?

Everything we can possibly give up is less than we owe, and for every single thing we give up in this physical realm He blesses us in the spiritual, here and now and also eternally.

As a follower of Christ,

is it possible to sacrifice?

I don’t have an answer. I’m still working on this. I know He sacrificed for us, because He gave up heaven and perfect communion to suffer at our hands and endure a tortured death that He did not have to die. In so doing, though, He gained a body for Himself, an eternal communion with the faithful who would accept the gift of His life.

So what is sacrifice?

I guess

maybe

it’s giving up what comes easily

or doing something we don’t have to do

and acting that way

for others.

* * *

I need to rest here a while. I’d love to hear your insights on this. Please comment or send me a note at debbie@momsguidetosurviving.com.

Be blessed.